August 25, 2012

Isaac Update - 5 p.m.


Recommended Visitor Egress Continues;
Traffic Flow on U.S. 1 Reported as Smooth

A hurricane warning continues for the Florida Keys and officials continue to urge visitors to leave the region if they have the means to. Their trips to the mainland should be completed by Saturday night, because weather conditions are expected to dramatically deteriorate early Sunday morning.

Traffic on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) is flowing smoothly at the speed limit, according to Col. Rick Ramsay, of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Tolls have been lifted on Card Sound Road.

The Snake Creek Drawbridge, in the Upper Keys, is locked, in the down position to facilitate vehicular traffic. High profile boats will not be able to obtain a bridge opening until well after the storm passes.

Visitors who don’t have transportation out of the Keys, can stay but are directed to remain indoors throughout the storm. Residents should heed the same advice.

Visitors that have immediate or near-term plans to visit the Keys must postpone their trips until after the storm passes and infrastructure assessments are completed.

The four county shelters open include Key West High School at 2100 Flagler Ave.; Sugarloaf School, mile marker 19; Stanley Switlik School, at MM 48 in Marathon and Coral Shores High School at MM 90  in Islamorada have opened. People going to shelters must bring their own supplies and bedding.

Storm preparations, including the securing of property and boats, should be completed by Saturday evening.

All federal, state, county and municipal parks and beaches are closed or are closing. All recreation and other high-profile vehicles should leave the Keys. All residents of mobile homes, boats and those in low-lying areas are urged to move to safe buildings or shelters.

Monroe County Airports Director Peter Horton said Key West International Airport is to close Saturday night just after 7 p.m. Florida Keys Marathon Airport is closed. Horton said about 35 cars remain to be rented in Key West and about 10 in Marathon.

Both the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission authorities said they have limited ability to respond to marine incidents because of their own storm preparations. Coast Guard officials announced the Port of Key West would close to all maritime traffic at 11 p.m. Saturday and remain close until after the storm passes and navigational aids can be inspected.

All county and municipal offices and public schools are to be closed to all Monday and to students Tuesday. County and municipal garbage pickup is canceled Monday, so residents are asked to not place refuse containers outside residences and businesses.

All Keys hospitals are opened and fire/rescue and law enforcement services are operating at this time. Hospitals are to remain open during and after the storm, but county fire rescue units evaluate their ability to respond when winds reach gale force, according to Monroe County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Callahan.

 Andrew Devanas, the science officer at the Key West National Weather Service, projected to following impacts of Isaac, based on the 5 p.m. Saturday National Hurricane Center forecast.

• Tropical storm-force winds should be arriving in the Keys around sunrise Sunday morning and exiting the Keys late Monday morning.

• The center of circulation should be over the Keys, between Key West and Marathon beginning Sunday night, as a strong tropical storm or weak Category 1 hurricane. There is an 85 percent chance for tropical storm-force winds and a 15 percent chance for hurricane-force winds.

• Tropical storm-force winds should extend more than 200 miles from the center.

• Expected rainfall amounts of six to 10 inches.

• There is the possibility of isolated tornadoes.

• Storm surge is expected to be one to three feet, perhaps as high as four feet at points in the Lower Keys.

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Resources:
Monroe County’s website: www.monroecounty-fl.gov
Facebook: MCSO-Florida Keys
Twitter: @mcsonews
Sheriff’s website: www.keysso.net
Monroe County Emergency: 1-800-955-5504

Florida Keys tourism council
Website: www.fla-keys.com
Facebook: floridakeysandkeywest
Twitter: @thefloridakeys
Keys Visitor Assistance Line: 1-800-771-KEYS

Media contacts: Becky Herrin, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, 305-797-0155
                          Andy Newman, Florida Keys Tourism Council, 305-542-6014

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